Coke of Norfolk made a big name for himself in the 18th century through doubling the production and profit on his 44,000 acre farm. His trick was to sow stubble turnips after wheat, so growing two crops a year, feeding his livestock in the winter, manuring where they fed and swelling his profits.
While few of us have a vegetable garden this big, turnips are a worthwhile crop to grow through the dead of winter.
We have two beds here, one sown late July, the other late August, all started in modules and six weeks later transplanted after basil and runner beans respectively. Some leaves were nibbled by slugs and flea beetle at first, but the plants all survived and we have been picking them steadily since October.
They were planted at 8” spacings, we started picking the biggest in October, leaving smaller ones to fill the space until March. If allowed to get too big, or if they grow slowly, they can become woody, it helps to give them richly composted soil so they grow fast and sweet—as with most vegetables.
Unusually for a vegetable, bought turnip seed germinates well. Our local store sells Snowball—89p for 1,000 seeds, which is true to its name and very sweet. There are plenty of colourful varieties out there such as yellow Golden Ball or the many pink to red ones.
We add them to casseroles, root roasts or even just boil them as a vegetable, as they are very sweet. And how much money does a pirate pay for each ear piercing? A buck an ear.
What to sow this month
Late in the month you can sow broad beans variety Aquadulce, although in this cold winter the ones I sowed in October are being eaten by all and sundry. My Little Nipper mousetrap has been busy and fleece seems to keep the birds and squirrels at bay.
If you enjoy living dangerously, you can plant early and second early potatoes this month. Put fleece over to warm the soil. First shoots should emerge in about a month. In return for this extra effort you should get an earlier and bigger crop.
Indoors or in a heated greenhouse you can sow quite a few crops, so long as you have somewhere warm enough to transplant them when they outgrow their modules. Beetroot, radish, lettuce, spinach, summer cabbage, parsley, peppers and tomatoes are examples. Again, only sow this early if you are extremely competitive!